What is asthma?
When you first get a diagnosis of asthma for yourself or your child, you may be wondering just what is asthma exactly? Or maybe you haven't been diagnosed yet and you're wondering if your symptoms might be asthma.
You won't get a diagnosis here. The information on this site is just that, general information. We can't speak to your condition personally. But if you are concerned about breathing problems, then it's a good idea to talk with your doctor or your child's doctor as soon as you can.
Even though asthma has become a worldwide health problem, it is not well understood by many of the people who have it or who are parents of those with asthma. Get the asthma facts and information you need to understand what asthma is all about.
Asthma is a chronic disease that affects your breathing. What happens is that your airways become inflamed and irritated in reaction to some kind of substance or situation, which is called a trigger. Your airways are the tubes that carry air and oxygen into and out of your body.
Your respiratory system includes your lungs and small tubes that branch out, called airways. These tubes become smaller and smaller until they form tiny sacs at the end called alveoli. Bands of muscle cover the bronchial tubes all the way down through the alveoli.
How Asthma Affects Your Body:
When you have asthma, your airways tend to be red and swollen and are easily irritated in response to triggers, such as pollen and cigarette smoke. Then, the airways' inside walls become even more swollen and the muscles tight. That means that the passages get narrower and less air flows to your lung tissue. A sticky substance called mucus is also produced in larger than normal amounts, which clogs your airways even more, making it hard to breathe, resulting in asthma symptoms.
What Produces the Asthma Response:
A faulty immune system is the main culprit in asthma. The immune system is the body's first line of defense against disease and infection. A complex set of organs and a separate circulatory system work together to help protect your body.
But what happens in people with asthma is that the immune system over-reacts to certain triggers. Triggers are substances your immune system interprets as threats to your well-being. In people who do not have asthma, these triggers produce no response.
Who Gets Asthma (Causes):
In the United States alone, about 20 million people-9 million of them children-have asthma. Asthma is found in 3 to 5 percent of adults and 7 to 10 percent of children.
Asthma is a health challenge for both adults and children all over the world. In children worldwide, asthma has reached epidemic proportions, with 9 million U.S. children having the disease, 4 million of whom had an asthma attack in the last year. In fact, asthma increased in prevalence between 1980 and 1994 by 75 percent. In children, that rate increased 160 percent.
Asthma can affect people at any age, but half of the people with asthma develop it during childhood, usually before age 10. However, you can develop asthma even as a senior citizen. Asthma also affects people of all races and ethnic backgrounds. Asthma, especially the kind caused by allergies, does tend to run in families. In fact, the top 6 asthma risk factors include:
1.Family history of asthma and/or allergies
2.Living in urban areas
3.Exposure to secondhand smoke
4.Low birth weight in infants
5.Health problems such as obesity, GERD, and chronic sinusitis
6.Exposure to job-related irritants